Monthly Archives: March 2012

Book review: Linked, by Hope Welsh

Linked, by Hope Welsh

This is a review of the book Linked, by Hope Welsh, a paranormal romance / thriller.

I am always a little cautious about paranormal romances, probably because of the Twilight effect – namely, that after the success of Twilight the market was flooded with teen paranormal romance titles, often of dubious quality. As a result, anything with vampires, especially, usually has me running for the hills. On that note, Linked was a pleasant surprise, with not a vampire to be seen. Evil spirits and shapeshifters, yes, but not vampires. :)

The book is short, and this is both a curse and a blessing.  A blessing because it’s refreshing to have a well thought-out story expressed with so few superfluous words and scenes; a curse because I felt that some aspects of it should have been fleshed out more.  The romance aspect, without giving too much away, felt a little rushed – while a connection like that in the short space of time in which the story takes place doesn’t bother me in itself, I didn’t really feel the relationship. Perhaps if more space was allocated to the feelings of the characters, their yearnings, confusion, maybe even fighting against the surprising strength of their attachment, it would have felt more convincing.

In addition, I would have liked more exposition about the evil spirit that is stalking the heroine, because that also felt underdone. Perhaps more elaboration on the spirit’s history and why it took the prophecy so seriously might have helped.  I quite liked the lack of information at the start because it felt more mysterious and made me want to read more, but by the end I still felt that spelling it out more would have been useful. As this is the first book in a series, though, it’s likely that I just need to read more books to find out what I thought was missing.  :)

That said, though, it was an entertaining read – easy, engrossing and well written. The story was well thought out and had enough suspense for me to keep turning the pages (or hitting the “next page” button on my kindle – but you know what I mean) to find out what happened next. The characters were solid and believable and the premise well thought out. If you are looking for a decent, quick read with a bit of suspense and paranormal themes, I can recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Linked, by Hope Welsh
Published by ROM On Line
136 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as ebook or paperback 

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On being a “writer”

There are a lot of articles and quotes online about what it is to be a writer. There are those who say you can’t be an aspiring writer – you are either one or you are not. There are those who say you have to tell the world you are a writer, otherwise it is merely a hobby and not a serious pursuit. And there are those who claim they know all the ins and outs of what it is to write.

I am none of these, though I do see the logic in the aspiring writer thing. Maybe people should call themselves aspiring authors instead. After all, anyone can write, but to finish a book, to have it in print or online in Amazon – that’s something else. But this is by the by. I have looked at all these views, and sifted through them, and come to my own conclusion: you are a writer if you believe you are.

I’m going to take myself as an example, because who else do I know as well? :) I don’t tell many people that I write. Most of my friends have no idea, and I certainly haven’t broadcast it among those I know in real life. (Hence the low numbers on my Facebook page.) There is a reason for this, but I won’t go into that right now. Suffice to say that by the time my novel has gone through a couple of betas I want to have a look at it, I’ll start spreading the word. I have stories published online under another name that only my husband knows about, despite the fact that within their online communities they are quite popular. But, for me, that has been a very personal part of my life, a private outlet for telling stories that I had in me.

However, I do see myself as a writer. I am taking this current novel very seriously and I do intend to publish it when the time comes, whether traditionally or independently. (I prefer the idea of traditional publishing, but am very aware that it’s very hard to break into. But again, that’s another issue for another day.) The fact that very few of my inner circle know about it is irrelevant to my dedication to the project. I am just as serious about trying to get a bit of an online profile before the novel is finished, and am trying to get involved in some new communities to boost my name awareness. In short, even if I’m being furtive in real life, I want to give myself the best possible chance of getting people in the wider world to read my book.

Does my reluctance to talk about it to my real life friends make me any less of a writer? I think not. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about it and I don’t doubt they will support me, I just want to have the finished (albeit perhaps unedited) manuscript in my hand before I share this part of my life. According to some pundits, this means I’m not taking it seriously. To me, though, I’m taking the same steps. I’m just taking them in a different order from other people.

Image by Hector Gomez

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99 Reasons Why – the ending (or, well, one of them)

99 Reasons Why cover

99 Reasons Why, by Caroline Smailes

You may or may not be aware of the recently released book 99 Reasons Why, by Caroline Smailes. It came out on Monday and has eleven possible endings, depending on how you want to read it.  Nine of these endings are available in the ebook (available from Amazon and itunes): the Kindle version has a series of questions you answer that determine which ending is best for you, whereas the iPad version has a spinning wheel to work out which one to use. Ending #10 has been handwritten by Caroline, and will be auctioned off for charity, while ending #11 has been made available to the blogosphere where people like me can share it with the world.

I hope you find this possible ending interesting enough to want to read the whole book. I certainly did!

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99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

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Soundtrack to your life

First things first. You may have noticed that I’m posting a couple of days early this week. This isn’t because I’m trying to get in early, but because I’ve decided to start posting twice a week – that is, on Mondays and Fridays. (Or Sundays and Thursdays for those in the US.) The reason for this is that I’ve got a lot of featured posts coming up – book reviews, the ending of a story, guest posts and the like – and I didn’t want my own posts to be edged out as a result.  Therefore, I’ll be alternating: on Mondays I’ll do one of my own posts, and on Fridays I’ll do a featured one. For example, this Friday I’ll be posting one of the eleven endings of Caroline Smailes99 Reasons Why, which is released today; next Friday it will be a review of Linked, by Hope Welsh.

Today, though, I want to talk about music, and how it complements the creative process. Most writers I know like to write to music, and some take this so seriously that they have a different playlist set up for each different type of scene – one for tension, one for romance, one for action, that sort of thing. They have separate folders on their iPods just for this purpose and find the right one for where they want their creativity to be that day.

Me, I don’t even have an iPod, and worse than that, I don’t know how to use one. (Yes, I know. Luddite.) My writing time, I’m ashamed to say, is set not to the most inspiring music I own, but to Brahms’ Lullaby coming through the baby monitor. Playing music too loudly would mean that I wouldn’t hear when the baby has woken up, and thus it’s a luxury I’ve learned to do without. I got a CD for Christmas that I’ve managed to listen to a grand total of once, and even that was in two sittings.

I was thinking about music this morning, though, as my son belted out his version of a song by a punk rock band that he’s heard on the car stereo, which is one of the few times I get to listen to music I enjoy. He’s heard the song twice, I believe, but he likes what he calls the “bouncy music”. Clearly, that music inspires him. And I got to thinking about what sort of music inspires me.

Here I must say that just because I don’t listen to music when I write doesn’t mean that I’m not inspired by it. On another website, under another name, I posted a whole bunch of short stories which were all inspired by a single song. Later in that collection is another one which was borne from a solitary line of lyrics.

Now, I won’t name these songs because (a) most people reading this blog won’t have heard of them anyway, and (b) there are all sorts of copyright issues in publishing song lyrics, as I learned here. I will say, though, that even though I don’t listen to it as often as I would like, music affects me in the same way it affects other writers. So now I want to know if you’re one of them. What sort of music inspires you to write? Do you have set playlists, or just take what comes next on shuffle? And most of all, do you recommend I start trying to get some music playing (over the baby monitor) when I’m trying to be creative? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Assorted writing tips #2 – don’t wait for inspiration

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I know what you’re thinking. I can’t write if I’m not inspired! What would I write about??

This is, of course, an excellent point. But the problem is, if you only write when you’re inspired, you’ll hardly ever do it. Besides, inspiration often comes at the most inconvenient times – in the shower, at 3am, when you’re making dinner, when you jump into the car to do the errands or whatever. In any case, it’s often when you are simply not able to make the most of it. But what of writing when you’re uninspired? Well yes, it can be difficult … but it can also be done.

Take my case – and I’m sure I’m not alone here. With young children, my writing time is limited to when they are either being educated or, mostly in the case of the baby, asleep. I rarely get more than an hour or two at a time to write, and even then I have no idea how long it will be before the baby monitor starts lighting up again, signalling that my attention is needed elsewhere. As such, I have arranged my time to have a Writing Day each week. (See? I’ve even capitalised it. That’s how important it is to me.) This is my day when I don’t do anything else – no extra-curricular activities for the kids, no shopping, no running down to the post office, nothing. For as long as I can (ie, when the baby isn’t complaining), I sit at my computer and I write.

The thing is, naturally, that I’m not always feeling particularly inspired on my Writing Day. Maybe the baby got me up at 4.30am and I’m crying out for a nap. Maybe the house needs cleaning. Maybe there’s something that I want to watch on television. Maybe I’m just not feeling creative. And I’m sure you’ve all been there.

However, I make myself do it. I have a look over what I’ve already written, and I can generally find something to do. Maybe it’s just the odd paragraph here or there. Maybe it’s editing – which I know I shouldn’t do till the first draft is finished, but I feel that any progress on a Writing Day is good. Maybe it’s a scene that I’ve been playing with in my mind, when I have been inspired (generally at 3am or when I’m doing the grocery shopping, I find), that I remember enough of to get a start on.

The thing is, just the act of writing is beneficial. I find it’s easier to edit and re-write a scene than it is to start it from scratch, even when there are a lot of changes to be made. After all, if you’ve already done it and you think it doesn’t work, then at least you know now what not to do with it. And of course, the more you write, the better at it you get.

Besides, who hasn’t had a day when they start out writing what they think is rubbish, only to look at it at the end and realise it’s actually quite good? I know I can’t be the only one.

So, if you have a time set aside to write, then make the most of it. Don’t wait to be inspired. Don’t spend that time surfing Facebook or Twitter or anything else that the net might throw at you. Just do it. You never know what might come out.

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Book review: Doxology, by Brian Holers

Doxology, by Brian Holers

This is a review of the novel Doxology, by Brian Holers, as part of the Novel Publicity whirlwind blog tour.

I will admit straight up that as someone who was not brought up in a religious household, I had to look the word “Doxology” up in the dictionary to have an inkling of what the book was about.  I will also admit that I sometimes struggle with overtly religious texts, as without any religious background I simply can’t relate to them.  From that perspective, Doxology was a pleasant surprise.

The novel chronicles the respective journeys of Vernon Davidson and his nephew Jody, as they come together at the illness and subsequent death of Jody’s father Leonard, and the challenges and personal growth they achieve as a result.

While not overtly religious, with the exception of the final chapter, I still found this book difficult to get into. My pedantic eye spotted errors in editing – changes of tense within scenes, particularly during the many flashbacks that make up much of the first half of the book, was a particular bugbear – and there seemed to be more points of view shown than required. I could understand that we were following Vernon and Jody on their journeys, but the POV of Jody’s workmate and potential brother-in-law Art, for example, feels ill-judged. We only get a couple of Art POV chapters, and while they reveal some backstory they don’t seem to fit with the flow of the rest of the book. Put another way, I couldn’t help but feel that this exposition could have been done another – better – way.

In addition, some of the characters feel they were put in for the sake of distraction more than anything else. While the history of Jody and his brother Scooter is interesting, Scooter’s actual involvement in the story is minimal and disappointing. Similarly, Vernon’s deliberately antagonistic workmate seems to exist only as an outlet for Vernon’s pent-up frustration at the end of the book. Again, while these characters have their moments, they feel underdone, caricatured in their own ways.

Having said that, though, overall it was an interesting and thought-provoking book. The way Vernon’s and Jody’s lives intertwine in a way that is both difficult and beneficial to both of them is well done, and the ultimate acceptance they show is reassuring and uplifting in what could have been a very depressing novel. Put another way, they find peace when they didn’t necessarily realise they needed it. Overall, this book is a good, solid début novel, and the author shows a lot of promise for future projects.

—————-

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Doxology eBook edition is just 99 cents (US) this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

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About the book: Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss, and the healing power of community and family. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: An arborist by day and a novelist in every moment he can steal, Brian makes up stories from the treetops. Visit Brian on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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